Edward Hopper

by Carol Troyen, Judith Barter, and Elliot Davis (MFA Publications, 288 pages) - Reviewed by Robert Birnbaum

Other than Grant Wood's American Gothic and Norman Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post covers, there is no American painter whose work is as embedded in this nation's iconography as Edward Hopper. "Nighthawks," "Early Sunday Morning," "Automat" and "New York Movie" are synonymous with the look and feel of mid-Twentieth Century America.

Hopper's watercolors of Gloucester, lighthouses in Maine, and Cape Cod scenes suggest an austerity and isolation that have misleadingly led to Edward Hopper being taken as an artist of alienation--a view that scholars of American painting Carole Troyen and Elliot Davis effectively balance in a new, splendidly printed and designed monograph, Edward Hopper, that serves as the catalogue for the traveling exhibition organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Gallery of Art, Washington; and The Art Institute of Chicago. Additionally, they make claims for Hopper's significant influence on literature and film as well as painting.

The book contains over 200 images from the entirety of Hopper's career and nine chapters of thematic biography, a detailed chronology and an extensive bibliography, making it--and the recent publication of an updated version of Edward Hopper specialist Gail Levin's seminal biography of Hopper--an embarrassment of Hopperiana riches. By the way, I have seen the Boston museum's exhibition, and the 100 oil paintings and 50-minutemovie produced by the National Gallery of Art along with Hopper's sketchbooks, portraits and self-portraits left me with an eerie familiarity with this complicated artist whom I had so long taken for granted. A good thing, methinks.

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